What role does depression play in one’s ability to understand? Can you recommend a helpful book?

According to, depression can impair one’s cognitive functioning. The disorder interferes with one’s thought process, the ability to make decisions and concentration. Depression changes the brain, which can slow the brain’s functioning. Depressed people frequently experience memory problems and have trouble remembering events or details. As a result they may be unable to complete tasks that require both high-motor and cognitive skills. Patients may appear confused, scatterbrained, overwhelmed or become frustrated easily. Even everyday tasks can be difficult for someone struggling with depression. These mental impairments are especially costly to children and students who are still attempting to learn crucial fundamental skills.

The following symptoms of depression can also contribute to learning problems or disabilities:

  • Mood swings and emotional irregularities
  • Low self-esteem causing feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and self-hatred
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious
  • Not finding pleasure, ultimately causing the individual to become disinterested in activities, work and other performance-based behaviors
  • Significant sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia) that affect the individual’s physical and psychological health

Other online articles regarding this topic include:

What strategies would you suggest when working with adult ESL students that have a learning disability?

Strategies that are helpful for non-ESL students with learning disabilities are usually appropriate for ESL students with learning disabilities, too.  Real-life, experiential, hands-on learning; graphic organizers; using the student’s learning strengths; accommodating the individual’s disability as needed; and the use of assistive technology when possible.

Do I have a right to be reinstated to my nursing program after failing if it is discovered that I have a learning disability?

You do not have the right to be automatically reinstated to any program if you were ineligible due to test scores, etc. that were impacted by an undiagnosed learning disability.  What you can do, however, is meet with a counselor at the program to review your learning disability evaluation and determine whether or not you may be able to enroll again, this time with instructional and testing accommodations.  You will most likely have to re-take any classes and tests that you previously did not pass.  Different schools have different policies regarding reinstatement, so this is something you’ll have to work out with the specific program in which you were enrolled.

Can you advise me on what resources are available to help me improve my executive functioning?

Traditional strategies for improving executive functioning include the use of graphic organizers, daily and weekly planners, color-coding and other organizational tools, and allowing extra time to complete tasks. Also, sports and exercise have recently been shown to improve executive function skills such as focus, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.

There are also many assistive technology applications available to assist with executive functioning. Smart phones have calendars with a system of reminders built-in, as well as digital note pads to help with memory and organization. Additionally, there are many apps available if you search online for “executive functioning apps.” Two good places to begin searching are the “Tools for Life App Finder” and the app finder at Learning Works for Kids.

What kind of assistive technology is available to help with reading and writing?

With all the free & cheap assistive technology available for reading and writing these days, you can provide your own accommodations at home – without any formal evaluation – and sometimes at work, depending on the accommodation needed. Here are a couple of ideas you might want to look into:

Natural Readers software is a free text-to-speech software program you can download on your computer. With this program installed on your computer, your computer will read out loud everything on your monitor after you highlight the text. This includes internet sites, email, and word processing documents. Actually, it can read anything you see written on your computer.

Prizmo is an app for your phone that lets you take a picture of what you want to read and then it reads it out loud to you. This works great for books, magazines, menus, or whatever else you need to read that’s not on a computer. You can check it out at about It costs $9.99 at the App Store. You can even create files that have multiple pages if you take multiple pictures.

GT-AppFinderFor other ideas about assistive technology that may be helpful, click here and check out Georgia Tech’s TOOLS FOR LIFE APP FINDER.

Just click on the picture that looks like the one here, and it will give you information about free & cheap apps.

I would like to join the military but have a diagnosed learning disability. Will this be a problem? Will they provide accommodations?

Legislation was passed that exempts the Armed Forces from the ADA. The Armed Forces are not required to grant accommodations, such as extended test time, on their qualifying test or as applies to service, so yes, having a learning disability would be a big problem. Also, military regulations provide that academic skills deficits that interfere with school or work after the age of 12 may be a cause for rejection for service in the Armed Forces.

Specifically, Members of the Armed Forces are appointed to a specific rank or grade under the authority of Title 10, United States Code. As such, they are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act (see 42 U.S.C. Sections 12111(5)(B)(i) at and 12131 at Discrimination in DoD civilian positions is governed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which generally applies the same standards for employment as the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, this policy does not apply to “uniformed members of the military departments,” only civilians. The military exception to the Rehabilitation Act is articulated in case law interpreting the statutory language. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and DoD regulations explicitly exempt military positions in the DoD from disability anti-discrimination policies and procedures. DoD physical requirements for military positions affirmatively discriminate on the basis of disability, and the courts have interpreted the military’s statutory authority to prescribe physical standards as overriding the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act.

There is a link from the Coast Guard which has a synopsis of all the relevant sections of the USC, any executive orders, etc. at

So basically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 exempts the federal government from complying with disability law based on its fundamental definition of “employer.” Any compliance with disability law by the armed forces is by choice, so for example, they have chosen to make all new construction wheelchair accessible. Likewise, they have chosen to adopt policy/procedure that does not allow for accommodations on the ASVAB. But it’s their choice.

What are the work accommodations for dyscalculia?

Effective job accommodations for any disability, including dyscalculia, must be determined based on the individual’s areas of strengths and needs. However, typical job accommodations for dyscalculia include the following:

  • Use of a calculator for all math-related tasks. Types of calculators may include:
    • Talking
    • Fractional
    • Statistical
    • Scientific
    • Construction (e.g., “Jobber 6”)
  • Using talking tape measures or talking scales
  • Using pre-measurement guides or jibs